Myron Bresnick, who introduced hundreds of foreign films to the U.S. nontheatrical market and built one of the world’s largest 16mm film libraries starting with a handful of titles, died of kidney failure in Newtown, Conn., on Sept. 4. He was 93.
Bresnick began his career in 1945 with a job at the Walter O. Gutlohn 16mm film library. He worked first as a film inspector, then as a booker, later becoming the manager in the firm’s Dallas office. (The nontheatrical market for films included schools, universities, churches, camps, libraries, civic groups and youth groups.)
Gutlohn sold his firm to International Theatrical and Television Co. Shortly thereafter, in 1951, Bresnick launched Fleetwood Films, starting with the animated feature “Little Greyneck,” as well as several Hal Roach features.
To gain a competitive edge in a market suddenly flooded with small film libraries, Fleetwood Films specialized in acquiring and distributing religious-themed films to parochial schools. One of Bresnick’s most successful titles was Spanish film “The Miracle of Marcelino,” directed by Ladislao Vajda and originally released in 1955.
After reading about the film, Bresnick went to Spain to hunt it down; the experience sparked his lifetime interest in foreign films. Bresnick and his company, later renamed Audio Film Center, dove into the nontheatrical foreign films market when it acquired the 16mm rights to De Sica’s “Miracle in Milan,” and then began to acquire the 16mm rights to nonreligious films like “The Little Fugitive” and American documentary classic “The Quiet One.” Soon Bresnick obtained two Japanese classics, Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon” and Teinosuke Kinugasa’s “Gate of Hell,” as well as Satyajit Ray’s “Pather Pachali” and “Aparajito”; then came films including D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” Resnais’ “Last Year at Marienbad” and some Buster Keaton and Harry Langdon features. At the same time, Bresnick was developing a relationship with Disney; his library eventually included scores of live-action and animated Disney classics.
Bresnick grew his small, specialized library into one of the world’s largest 16mm nontheatrical film distribution firms by taking chances on unproven films about which he felt strongly, acquiring exclusive rights to many foreign and domestically produced pics, buying large collections of assorted titles and acquiring the libraries of smaller distribution firms. His company maintained its Mt. Vernon, N.Y., headquarters and had satellite offices in Dallas, Chicago, Oakland and Los Angeles. In 1968, he sold his business to Macmillan.
Bresnick retired from Macmillan in the early ’80s and launched Grange Communications, which focused on obtaining and distributing foreign films theatrically in the U.S. Through partnerships with firms and individuals like Kino Intl. and Jerry Winters, Grange released films including Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Nostalghia,” Agnes Varda’s “Vagabond” and Masahiro Shinoda’s “Yasha-ga-ike,” released in the U.S. as “Demon Pond.” Bresnick retired from the film industry in the late 1990s.
Bresnick was able to collect rights to film collections from iconic directors including Fellini, Bunuel and Rossellini, with whom he had developed warm business relationships and personal friendships. For decades, Bresnick was a regular at the Cannes Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival and MIFED.
Myron Herman Bresnick was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. He attended Ohio State U. on a track scholarship and later transferred to NYU. During WWII he served in the Army.
Bresnick’s wife, the former Renee Abramson, predeceased him in 2004. He is survived by a daughter, Peggy Bresnick Kendler, a freelance writer; a son, Geoffrey; and two grandchildren.